Program in the History of the Book  in American Culture

Speaking for the People: Native Writing and the Question of Political Form
with Mark Rifkin

Thursday, December 2, 2021, 2 pm EDT

Approx. 1 hour


This program is free but requires advanced registration.

In Speaking for the People Mark Rifkin examines nineteenth-century Native writings to reframe contemporary debates around Indigenous recognition, refusal, and resurgence. Rifkin shows how works by Native authors (William Apess, Elias Boudinot, Sarah Winnemucca, and Zitkala-Ša) illustrate the intellectual labor involved in representing modes of Indigenous political identity and placemaking. These writers highlight the complex processes involved in negotiating the character, contours, and scope of Indigenous sovereignties under ongoing colonial occupation.

Rifkin argues that attending to these writers' engagements with non-native publics helps provide further analytical tools for addressing the complexities of Indigenous governance on the ground—both then and now. Thinking about Native peoplehood and politics as a matter of form opens possibilities for addressing the difficult work involved in navigating among varied possibilities for conceptualizing and enacting peoplehood in the context of continuing settler intervention. As Rifkin demonstrates, attending to writings by these Indigenous intellectuals provides ways of understanding Native governance as a matter of deliberation, discussion, and debate, emphasizing the open-ended unfinishedness of self-determination.

Mark Rifkin is Linda Arnold Carlisle Distinguished Excellence Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Professor of English at UNC Greensboro. In addition to Speaking for the People, he is the author of six books, including Fictions of Land and Flesh: Blackness, Indigeneity, Speculation (Duke UP, 2019); Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination (Duke UP, 2017); and When Did Indians Become Straight?: Kinship, the History of Sexuality, and Native Sovereignty (Oxford UP, 2011), winner of the John Hope Franklin Prize for Best Book in American Studies. He also co-edited the award-winning "Sexuality, Nationality, Indigeneity," a special double-issue of the journal GLQ, and he has served as president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

Order this book directly from the publisher at

Mark Rifkin

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